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trying to poison your mind against me, or my

If Mr. Noel Vanstone had obeyed Mrs.
Lecount's injunction, and had kept her little morsel
of note paper folded in his pocket until the time
came to use it, Captain Wragge's designedly
blunt appeal might not have found him
unprepared with an answer. But curiosity had got the
better of himhe had opened the note at night,
and again in the morningit had seriously
perplexed and startled himand it had left his mind
far too disturbed to allow him the possession of
his ordinary resources. He hesitated; and his
answer, when he succeeded in making it, began
with a prevarication.

Captain Wragge stopped him before he had
got beyond his first sentence.

"Pardon me, sir," said the captain, in his
loftiest manner. "If you have secrets to keep,
you have only to say so, and I have done. I
intrude on no man's secrets. At the same time,
Mr. Vanstone, you must allow me to recal to
your memory that I met you yesterday without
any reserves on my side. I admitted you to my
frankest and fullest confidence, sirand, highly
as I prize the advantages of your society, I can't
consent to cultivate your friendship on any other
than equal terms." He threw open his respectable
frock-coat, and surveyed his visitor with a manly
and virtuous severity.

"I mean no offence!" cried Mr. Noel
Vanstone, piteously. "Why do you interrupt me,
Mr. Bygrave? Why don't you let me explain?
I mean no offence."

"No offence is taken, sir," said the captain.
"You have a perfect right to the exercise
of your own discretion. I am not offendedI
only claim for myself the same privilege which
I accord to you." He rose with great dignity,
and rang the bell. "Tell Miss Bygrave," he
said to the servant, "that our walk this morning
is put off until another opportunity, and
that I won't trouble her to come down

This strong proceeding had the desired effect.
Mr. Noel Vanstone vehemently pleaded for a
moment's private conversation before the message
was delivered. Captain Wragge's severity
partially relaxed. He sent the servant down stairs
again; and, resuming his chair, waited
confidently for results. In calculating the facilities
for practising on his visitor's weakness, he had
one great superiority over Mrs. Lecount. His
judgment was not warped by latent female
jealousies; and he avoided the error into which
the housekeeper had fallen, self-deludedthe
error of underrating the impression on Noel
Vanstone that Magdalen had produced. One of
the forces in this world which no middle-aged
woman is capable of estimating at its full value,
when it acts against heris the force of beauty
in a woman younger than herself.

"You are so hasty, Mr. Bygraveyou won't
give me timeyou won't wait and hear what
I have to say!" cried Mr. Noel Vanstone,
piteously, when the servant had closed the
parlour door.

"My family failing, sirthe blood of the
Bygraves. Accept my excuses. We are alone,
as you wished; pray proceed."

Placed between the alternatives of losing
Magdalen's society, or betraying Mrs. Lecount
unenlightened by any suspicion of the
housekeeper's ultimate object; cowed by the
immovable scrutiny of Captain Wragge's inquiring
eyeMr. Noel Vanstone was not long in
making his choice. He confusedly described
his singular interview of the previous evening
with Mrs. Lecount; and taking the folded
paper from his pocket, placed it in the captain's

A suspicion of the truth dawned on Captain
Wragge's mind, the moment he saw the
mysterious note. He withdrew to the window, before
he opened it. The first lines that attracted his
attention were these:—"Oblige me, Mr. Noel,
by comparing the young lady who is now in your
company, with the personal description which
follows these lines, and which has been
communicated to me by a friend. You shall know the
name of the person describedwhich I have left
a blankas soon as the evidence of your own
eyes has forced you to believe, what you would
refuse to credit on the unsupported testimony of
Virginie Lecount."

That was enough for the captain. Before he
had read a word of the description itself, he
knew what Mrs. Lecount had done, and felt,
with a profound sense of humiliation, that his
female enemy had taken him by surprise.

There was no time to think; the whole
conspiracy was threatened with irrevocable
overthrow. The one resource, in Captain Wragge's
present situation, was to act instantly on the
first impulse of his own audacity. Line by line he
read onand still the ready inventiveness which
had never deserted him yet, failed to answer
the call made on it now. He came to the closing
sentenceto the last words which mentioned the
two little moles on Magdalen's neck. At that
crowning point of the description, an idea crossed
his mindhis parti-coloured eyes twinkled; his
curly lips twisted up at the cornersWragge
was himself again.

He wheeled round suddenly from the window;
and looked Mr. Noel Vanstone straight in the
face, with a grimly-quiet suggestiveness of
something serious to come.

"Pray, sir, do you happen to know anything
of Mrs. Lecount's family?" he inquired.

"A respectable family," said Mr. Noel
Vanstone—"that's all I know. Why do you

"I am not usually a betting man," pursued
Captain Wragge. "But on this occasion, I will
lay you any wager you like, there is madness
in your housekeeper's family."

"Madness!" repeated Mr. Noel Vanstone,

"Madness!" reiterated the Captain, sternly